Sligo Surf Experience Blog
Winter Surfing Tips
12 November 23
Top tips on how to stay warm and surf your best this winter
Winter Surf TipsMost people think that when the summer season ends and September arrives that surfing finishes for the year. Not at all. In fact, the waves in Sligo are much better in the winter than during the summer. Ireland is a famous winter surfing destination known around the world as a cold-water surfing paradise. The wetsuit technology of major surf brands has developed significantly in the last decade. The standard of winter wetsuits on offer means that cold-water surfing is more accessible than ever. Find yourself the right five or six-millimeter wetsuit and winter surf accessories and learn to take care of your equipment. Then you will have no trouble surfing all the way through the winter.
Most people in Ireland learn to surf during the summer. Once they catch the surf bug they will start to surf at any time of year. The first time a surfer starts to surf through the winter months they will see a big boost in their surfing. Surfing in Ireland all year round is key to improving your surf skills long term.
Read on for my top tips to stay warm and surf your best this winter.
Tip #1 - Thicker Wetsuit
Having the right equipment is essential for winter surfing in Sligo. Sligo Surf Experience has you covered for our winter surf sessions with Tiki 5 mm winter wetsuits, Alder surf boots, gloves and hoodies which will keep you toastie in the chillier Atlantic waters. If you are looking to get your own equipment, here are our top tips for getting the right winter surf equipment.
A summer wetsuit is 3/2 mm thick. A spring wetsuit is 4/3 mm thick. But to comfortably surf in Ireland in winter you will need at least a 5 mm winter wetsuit from a good brand. I have been a European teamrider for Xcel wetsuits for the last ten years. So this is the brand I recommend. I use a 5/4 mm Infinity without a hood in the early part of the winter in September, October and even in to November. Then I use a 6/5 mm drylock hooded wetsuits for the coldest part of the year in December, January and February. These winter wetsuits keep me warm for a three-hour surf session on even the coldest winter days. Xcel is a very popular brand in Ireland but other brands like Billabong, Rip Curl and Finisterre have excellent winter wetsuit ranges.
A wetsuit hood is an essential piece of winter surfing equipment. If you have a 5 mm winter wetsuit but no hood, it is worth investing in one for the colder months of November, December, January and February. Surfers like to start wearing a thicker wetsuit in September but leave off the hoods and boots until the water gets properly cold in November. Buy yourself a decent, comfortable-fitting wetsuit hood. Thermal rash vests with built-in hoods that you can wear under a 5 mm hoodless wetsuit are also a great investment.
Don't forget to wear ear plugs during the winter to keep your ears warm and dry and help prevent surfers ear.
But for unparalleled surfing warmth and comfort during the winter months you will need to get your hands on a 6 mm winter wetsuit with a built-in hood. An Xcel 6 mm drylock is a great example but there are lots of different brands to choose from. Call into Paul in the Wetsuit Company Strandhill for more professional advice and to check out their range of winter wetsuits in-store
A thicker wetsuit also means more restrictive movements. So buying a winter wetsuit with lots of flex is a great idea. You are heavier so pops in winter wetsuits take a little bit of getting used to. And our top pro tip for carefree winter surfing is to have two winter wetsuits, if your budget allows. That means you can surf twice in one day without getting back into a wet wetsuit.
It is always recommended to rinse your winter wetsuit in fresh water after each surf where possible, and let hang dry overnight.
Tip #2 - Accessories
Once you have acquired yourself a new winter wetsuit you will need to find yourself the right winter surf accessories. First, you will need a good-fitting pair of surf booties. 3 mm booties will do. Some people wear booties all year round and 3 mm booties will work for summer too. They are a little more expensive but a 5 mm pair of booties will work much better for the winter months. 5 mm booties are a little hard to get on but they keep your toes nice and warm. Most booties today come in split-toe or round-toe models. If you are an intermediate/advanced surfer split toe 3 mm boots offer unrivaled grip on your board. However, split-toe 5 mm booties can be super hard to get on, especially with numb fingers and at times can lead to irritation between the toes. So I would recommend going for the more comfortable round toe bootie design for a 5 mm wetsuit boot.
Gloves also come in different thicknesses, from 1.5 mm up to 7 mm. In general, a 3 mm pair of surf gloves will suit most people for their winter surfing needs. The most common type of surf glove is a five-finger model. But surf mitts are becoming increasingly popular. If you are going for thicker gloves, 5, 6 or 7 mm (for the sub-zero days) I would recommend going for surf mitt type of glove. They keep you warmer and are easier to get on. Surf gloves in general are hard to get on. The first glove goes on okay but putting on the second glove can be a harder task. So make sure you have a friend around to help you on with that second glove.
Surfing with gloves is a little more cumbersome than surfing without gloves. But it is either surf with gloves or surf with numb hands, which is difficult as well. A good half-way house is to go for thinner more flexible gloves like a 1.5 mm or a 2 mm option. These gloves give you some from protection from the cold while keeping the maximum amount of finger dexterity.
There is no better feeling than surfing in a flexible 3/2 mm wetsuit in the summer with our gloves, boots or a hood. As the water starts to cool down in September I start to wear a thicker wetsuit. Then I start wearing boots. Once it gets cold I start to wear a wetsuit hood. The last piece of winter surf accessory that I start wearing in the winter are gloves. The water is still super cold iin February and March although the weather starts to improve. Then things go in the reverse order. First I start surfing without my gloves. Then the wetsuit hood comes off. And as the water warms up I stop wearing my wetsuit boots. It is a great feeling have finally your feet back on the surfboard.
Tip #3 - Get changed quicklyOne of the keys to winter surfing is the ability to get into a cold damp wetsuit quickly. It is simply a case of mind over matter. Just do it. Once that wetsuit is on the excitement to get in the water increases. Sometimes it is tough looking at the waves and letting the idea of getting into a wet wetsuit put you off. Getting into the wetsuit is the hardest part of winter surfing. Trust me, once you are in that wetsuit you be glad you got changed. Although it is cold getting changed, once you are in your wetsuit you start to warm up, especially if you sprint to the water.
Winter surfing is harder that summer surfing. But the waves are generally a lot better. It is mind over matter. And it if you have the right equipment it makes things a lot easier.
Tip # 4 - Winter Surf Lessons
Our final tip to help you improve your surfing this winter is to try out some winter surf lessons. Find yourself an Irish Surfing certified surf school running winter surf classes and join in. Hopefully, you will be getting out on your own for lots of practice over the winter. So one or two coaching sessions with an experienced instructor can help you fix any bad haibts, improve your technique and help you make the most out of your winter surf sessions.
Our surfing gift vouchers are also the perfect Christmas gift for that special surfer in your life.